Skip to main content


Kirk's first homer lifts Blue Jays over Dodgers

Alejandro Kirk Toronto Blue Jays Alejandro Kirk - The Canadian Press

TORONTO — Alejandro Kirk's mind isn't on his stats, it's on getting better every day.

Kirk went 3 for 3 at the plate and hit his first home run of the season to lead the Toronto Blue Jays past the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-1 on Sunday to snap a five-game losing skid. The 25-year-old catcher was mired in a 0 for 11 slump before the win, although he insisted his struggles were not at the forefront of his mind.

“To tell you the truth, I didn’t even know I was going 0 for 11,” explained Kirk through a translator. “I don’t really put all my energy on that, put my attention on that.

"I’m just trying to think of how I can get better, and I think that worked today.”

Daulton Varsho and Isiah Kiner-Falefa had back-to-back groundouts in the second inning to score runners for Toronto (14-15) before Kirk hit his first homer of the season 381 feet. The Blue Jays avoided being swept in the three-game interleague series and have earned at least one win in every one of their series so far this season.

Kevin Gausman (1-3) allowed one run and five hits while striking out five across seven innings in his best performance of the season. He didn't issue a single walk and saw his fastball reach 96 m.p.h. in a return to form for the 2023 CY Young runner-up after a shaky start to the year.

“When Kev’s right, he’s as good as anybody” said Blue Jays manager John Schneider. “That’s a really, really tough lineup. To hold them to one run there — I mean, there was probably one mistake pitch to Freddie (Freeman) that he hit out.

"But it is nice to have him on a day like today and kind of be his old self.”

Canadian-American first baseman Freddie Freeman had a home run in the sixth inning as Los Angeles (18-12) had its six-game win streak snapped.

Gausman kicked things off by holding the Dodgers’ all-world top of the batting order at bay in the first inning courtesy of a Mookie Betts groundout and a Shohei Ohtani fly-out to deep centre — assisted by some acrobatics from Varsho — before sitting Freeman down on strikes to end the frame.

“Today was probably the best I’ve been overall, from start to finish,” said Gausman. “Command was there. Chase pitches were there, as well.

"I thought we had a good game plan going in and we adjusted on the fly.”

The Blue Jays didn’t fare much better on their first trip to the batter’s box, though, as a potentially dangerous single by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was quickly erased by the 24-year-old slugger when he lost focus on the basepath and got picked off to end the inning two at-bats later.

Baserunning misadventures continued to tell the story early on as the game shifted to the second inning. After Max Muncy doubled to give the Dodgers their first hit of the game, the star third baseman misjudged a hit-and-run sequence with centre-fielder James Outman one at-bat later, breaking for third with one out only for Outman to strike out swinging and gift Kirk an easy throw-out to catch Muncy and secure the double play.

Having lain dormant for most of the weekend series, the Blue Jays’ bats came alive in the bottom of the second thanks to some uncharacteristically effective hitting with runners in scoring position from the bottom half of the lineup.

After Justin Turner and Davis Schneider found their respective ways home, Kirk’s solo shot to deep right field put Toronto up 3-0.

Kirk’s home run spelled the end of starter Michael Grove’s afternoon after two innings of work and three earned runs, with left-hander Alex Vesa replacing him out of the bullpen in the third.

Versa, Ryan Yarborough, and Nabil Crismatt combined for seven innings of scoreless baseball to give the Dodgers a chance of making their way back into the game.

The comeback bid began on the bat of Freeman, whose solo shot in the bottom of the fifth finally got the Dodgers on the board. The home run was Freeman’s second of the season and the sixth of his career to come at the Rogers Centre.

“It was nice, especially here in Canada,” said Freeman of hitting a home run in front of his father, who was born in Windsor, Ont., and was in attendance to watch his son all weekend long.

“I know he’s seen a few of them in his day but being here in Toronto. in this special place for our family, I’m happy I was able to do that for him.”

The comeback would end there, however.

Despite loading the bases in the bottom of the eighth, L.A. couldn't solve the duo of YImi Garcia and Tim Mayza, setting the stage for Jordan Romano of Markham, Ont., to close out the game with a scoreless ninth.

ON DECK — The Blue Jays will continue their homestand on Monday when the Kansas City Royals come to town, while the Dodgers will head west to Arizona to take on the Diamondbacks.

Yariel Rodriguez (0-1, 3.86 ERA) is expected to get the start for the Blue Jays as he seeks his first career MLB win.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 28, 202